Danny Garcia “Looking For Johnny” Book

‘Cause I wanna be there wit cha and I know what to bring …
Ya don’t get no respect until ya die, if you’re a friend of mine…

ALONE IN A CROWD (-by Daddy Rollin’ Stone and the Endless Party)

It ain’t no fun being a symbol. Once you come to represent something powerful in other people’s imaginations or various tribal mythologies, you are reduced to a flat concept, a logo, a Hello Kitty or Nike swoosh, a one dimensional cartoon, a Ramones logo-it is dehumanizing whenever people objectify you, even if it is as a symbol of blind devotion or grandiose religious adoration, in your own time. If people can only love you as a character, and from afar, is that even real love? Or kinda like empty idolatry? It is said that Jim Morrison only looked like the Dionysus in the American Poet poster for five minutes. If you do a photos session with a syringe in your hat brim, that image might stick, a fixed image. Most people are capable of being a heartbreaker, a hero, a demon, a doll, or a junkie at different stages of their lives, ya know? Sometimes, all at once. I had a friend who was all those things, I’m writing a song about him: “most talented dude I’ve ever known/was hated and fated to die alone”. There are no flawless saints, or perennial all purpose villains. Nobody’s an album cover. That’s why it was so poignant when Bermondsey Joyriders put out a single called “Johnny Thunders Was A Human Being”. He’s probably sold more t shirts than New Kids On The Block, but his own short life did not seem to be that joyful, or romantic, in spite of his many remarkable contributions to the rock culture. Immortal rags like, “Only Wrote This Song”, “Lonely Planet Boy”, “Short Lives”, “Blame It On Mom”, “Some Hearts”, “It’s Not Enough”, “In God’s Name”, and “Subway Train”.

Back in my day, Sonny, they could hound you out of public schools for wearing makeup, or dressing like Johnny Thunders. I still remember how excited we were to lay our black fingernail polished little claws on the first edition of that extremely coveted book by Nina Antonia. Johnny ain’t home, but everybody protectively owns their own sainted and martyred idea of him, because he resides in each of us. The fans don’t always wanna know how their idols are capable of unkind, or less than chivalrous behaviors, but the angst, the yearning, the regrets, the mistakes and fuckups, that’s the stuff that fuels the music. The truth is harder to ingest than the t shirt. But what a story, I got lots of compassion for that whole crazy cast of characters-I can see why Jerry Nolan might yell, “Fuck The NY Dolls“, in Florida, after David informs Sylvain, Jerry, and Johnny how they are all replaceable. I can understand how David might be tired of the boys being drunk, or not showing up, or being in the hospital, all the time. Few of us can see our own thirsty nature….glug, glug, glug. Sylvain really was the real die hard torch keeper, always trying to protect their legacy, and who always wanted to put the band back together, he really did seem to love what they were together. I thought that “I Only Wrote This Song For You” tribute cd they put out in the nineties was, by far, the classisest tribute cd, EVER. So good. Willie Deville, Jayne County, Los Lobos. Fantastic stuff.

You can see the Thunders bloodline in the primitive gothic Americana of Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Bryan Gregory, Rowland S. Howard and Spencer P. Jones. In the entire mythology of Amy Winehouse-it can easily be argued that her whole career trajectory was based loosely on Patti Palladin and Johnny Thunders punk rock girl group reinventions. You can even see Thunders long shadow on corporate rock bands, like Nirvana and Guns N Roses. The NY Junk kinda carry a torch representing the more Dylanesque singer/songwriter folk storyteller side of Thunders‘ volatile gutter punk. Joey Pinter from the Waldos finally put out a solo CD last year and it totally has that trashy, gritty, Bowery blues, punk feel. Greg Allen who played with JT collaborators, Two Saints, and Jerry Nolan in the Profilers, has a band called Fringe Religion that will appeal to all you mystery girls and pirate lovers. My favorite modern bands, Dr. Boogie (RIP) and the Sweet Things both had the right kinda storm and drag. Ask Steve Jones or Mick Jones what Thunders meant to them. His deathless influence is everywhere: from the cheesy eighties hairband people to the thoughtful and bruised songwriters. If you go to a show, you might see whole legions of JT wannabes walkin’ around with the stack heels and holsters and umbrellas, but almost no one writes those kind of heartfelt songs, anymore. At the end of the day, nobody can ever be the NY Dolls, except the NY Dolls.

I never understood anyone fretting over achieving or mastering the perfect Thunders sound because his sound was imperfect and belonged to Thunders. A sacred cow in death, the multiple weekly tribute events in his name are always packed around the block, but in life, he made some errors, and also got punked around, a lot. It was a hard knock life. I connected to the sad kid in Thunders probably even more than the platform shoes or cowboy shirts. “So Alone”, the big all star Steve Lillywhite produced affair, remains a standout masterpiece, but “Hurt Me” and “Que Sera Sera” are somewhat overlooked, for some reason. Everybody sees their own stained glass reflection in the elevated arches at the Thunders cathedral. The clowns see someone who was not afraid to laugh. The Tragediennes’s see someone who was not afraid to die. To some, it’s strictly geographical and/or generational, he is the first person, old pal, patron saint of certain local bars that they were old enough to have frequented, in the early seventies, so they are the official guardians of “been there” baby boomer Thunderism. To many others, he is the butch struttin’, high heeled, emo haircut prophetic, confrontational, sneering, glam rock prototype, who had the perfect pre Nikki Sixx/Mike Monroe/Steve Stevens done up hair all the way back in 1973 and those of us who know someone competent with a razor who is qualified to successfully give us that elusive black raven’s nest as Nina calls it, without fucking it up and giving us a humiliatingly awful Joe Dirt/Joe Elliot custodian’s mullet instead, can sashay around in the Oscar Wilde Room of our mind, and feel somehow vicariously validated by his angelic DTK presence, like we carry forth a swaggering piece of shaggy Thunders wildness. Some people mainly worship him as the holy rollin’, illuminated, golden prophet, gringo on a wooden cross, immortal drug taker, put some pills in the collection plate, forever justifying their own get high preferences, like Ringling Sisters sang in “53 Reasons To Go Downtown”, or like his former Gang War band mate, Wayne Kramer sang in, “Junkie Romance”. You got people who resonate with his lonely, wounded songs about not fitting in, or never feeling a lasting sense of family, so he is their orphan deity. I’ve had friends who resonated primarily with his “I’m A Boy, I’m A Girl” androgyny. I got friends who think the Heartbreakers are the best rocknroll band of all time. People can argue all day about the memories and their personal preferences, but the point is we’re all still talking about that courageous cat, ’cause we rarely see artists even half as gutsy and desperately sincere as Johnny was, anymore. Memories can become like a cross to bear, if that’s all we got to put our arms around, ya know, unless we have another forty bucks for another lousy t shirt.

Johnny’s old pal, Uncle Walter, has been faithfully keepin’ the old Heartbreakers/Waldos songs alive, he’s got a new platter out that is really good-particularly his charming rendition of “You Talk Too Much”, check out the hot new video for “Damn Your Soul”. I remember him, always so fondly, as being one of the best frontmen/singer/guitarist/rabble rousers I ever saw play live. His “Rent Party” crew were my favorite 90’s band, besides the Humpers and Pillbox. I miss the old NYC when all the legends were still alive and you could see all those guys walking around and playing small clubs. Death is pitiless, though, it just keeps coming for all of us. One by one, relentlessly. I don’t know about you, but my life is like a ghost town. The esteemed Walter points out that Thunders lived a long time, like, fifteen precarious years, on the ledge. I found the Peter Perrett anecdotes particularly revealing, because it was always pretty clear to me, however adept those guys were at the piercing stares and Sha Na Na, chain wielding, hot rod gang reputations, we’re talking about the dude who wrote the most naked and brave and unflinchingly honest songs in the world:”and then, I’m goin’ to sleep…” They may have been delinquents, but they were very loving and passionate and probably good hearted delinquents. They came from a 50’s NY macho working class culture, they probably never had access to the proper skill-sets, or role models to learn how to be nurturing parents, or romantic partners, by today’s standards.

When I was around him, he never struck me as dangerous or indestructible, more like a frightened, little boy blue, whom I wanted to make a grilled cheese and bowl of tomato soup for, and I was still a bit of a lost teenager, myself, back then! Concerned adults advised me to give a wide berth to all the scuzzy 70’s punk guys, which naturally made me more determined to follow them around Alphabet City like a happy puppy. I saw some good shows, and some not quite so good shows, and always admired and appreciated how Thunders‘ exceptionally loyal friends and Oddballs band-mates always stood-by and protected him, like a tight-knit gang. They carried him when he was not in top form and really brought some light and life to his ever more observant and socially conscious songs. He dropped some of the self destruction blues tunes from his set.”Critic’s Choice” is still one of my very favorite Johnny tunes. This book of insightful Garcia interviews with people like Andy Shernoff, Bob Gruen, Phyllis Stein, Night Bob, Cynthia B-Girl, Chris Musto, and Alison Gordy features sacred texts and candid testimony from some of JT’s closest intimates and allies, and a is roll call of the best musicians left alive-Syl and Sami, Walter Lure, Stevie Klasson, Timo Kaltio, Neil X, John Perry, as well as words once spoken by insiders who are no longer with us, like Leee Black Childers and Marty Thau, and Billy Rath. It is heavy duty stuff. Essential reading for the faithful and even the more casual Thunders acolytes. Be forewarned, once you crack open the pages, you will start hearing his old songs in your head, all day. Jamie Heath’s stirring saxophone on “Society Makes Me Sad” is playing in mine, as I type. A lot of love went into this book project. I never knew that just Johnny and Billy Rogers did some of those recordings, or that Thunders played bass. Simon Ritt from the Daughters, Darlings and Unattached adds some interesting tidbits to the tumultuous tale of woe and glory. Parts of it are harrowing and hard to get through, he was undoubtedly a lonely and helplessly tormented character at certain points of his life, especially when he became estranged from his family and Jerry Nolan. It’s hard to cope with being separated from your beloved children. It is a very humanizing book, that kind of shows how even people who loved him were unable to really change his fate, it’ll make you start wondering about your own life, your own twists and turns and what might have been different, if only this or that had happened. It’s powerful reading. It made me start wanting to listen to his music again, after many years of being kinda burntout on the same five albums I listened to everyday, in my teens and twenties. He’s got a lot of great content buried among the glut of exploitative product. I forget, sometimes, how good he really was, I probably just got somewhat turned off by all the copycat imitators and forever titillated, second hand, sensationalists. Sometimes, it has felt like there were way more plunderers, than actual thunderers.

I kinda hate those tribute-night cattle-call concerts, now. Too much half hardhearted kareoke from people unconnected to the emotional aspect of the material, though Liza Colby really impressed me by belting out such an emotional, hellaciously full hearted burst of sincere passion when covering, “Baby I Love You”, I mean, she really tore it up. That’s how you do it. You have to pour real feelings into the music. She’s a big blast of white lightning, we don’t see enough of that, from our performers, anymore. She don’t even play guitar, but you can see clearly, how she carries on the tradition of Johnny Thunders, in her own way. She is courageous. Soulful. Badass. A firestorm of feelings. I don’t even go see shows much anymore, or care to watch that awful garbage pop they play on tv. It’s just wretched, dreadful, empty. Everybody’s sleep walking, just phoning it in, expecting the paid-for threads, robot-beats, and pay-to-play platforms to be the same as throwing down intimate pieces of one’s heart. Everybody wants to buy a piece of the long gone legend. So many want to steal his face and be him, without the unique, original, singular innovations, or his totally authentic (“more reverb!”) voice, and without ever enduring that depth of sorrow and despair. You got fans of every Thunders era, who still believe David Jo was a better singer than either Thunders or Walter, and a far better lyric writer, who hold firm to the belief that the original NY Dolls with both Murcia and Nolan were a magical elixir-the perfect mixture of volatile elements. You got your pre-Billy Rath, dedicated, Richard Hell Heartbreakers partisans. You got your “David Jo-hasbeen” people, who hate the camp, show-bizzy aspects of the Dolls, and strictly worship at the Heartbreakers 50’s greasy hoodlum-punk alter. Your Two York Dolls enthusiasts, who like Steve Conte best, maybe because he is more accessible than all these other elusive apostles. What a hard job he got himself tangled up in, ya Know? TWICE! Some people argue that Joey Pinter was approximately as good of a guitar player, but received little to no fanfare because he did not wear makeup and feather boas, satin or frills, in the Max’s days. His fire fingered set with the Heartbreakers at that Thunders Memorial show was a fiercely devotional performance. I thought pretty much everybody shined brightly that night, even through the grief and tears. Patti Palladin. Cheetah with Spacely on harmonica.

In the past 30 years, we’ve just seen so many assembly line clones doing the lackluster impersonations of the holy trinity of Deadboys/Dolls/Ramones, that it’s hard to reach back and remember what that music really meant to us, when it still had all that first-cut, revolutionary fury, and soul power and original impact. I tend to only like the artists who develop voices of their own, who may be informed or influenced, by those who came before us, but I wanna hear people who bring their own thing, their own statement, their own fresh set of ideas, to the table. Otherwise, what’s the point? Nick Kent brought a real snarly, upfront, Thunders like energy to writing, back in the seventies and eighties. There were people who only came on the scene when these pioneers were helplessly spiraling ,and enabled some unhealthy habits for five minutes, who think that makes them their personal stand-in spokes models, henceforth. I personally appreciate artists, like Morrissey, for instance, who maybe don’t slavishly ape his guitar style and call it original, or steal his look precisely, and we all know dozens of those who do, but who heard something anarchic and soulful and streetwise and reckless in his runaway train solos; or something truthful and heroic, in his calls for social justice and delicate little boy confessions, that made them want to express their own vulnerable truths, courageously. For example, if you listen to my early mentor, Ratboy play guitar, it actually sounds very little like Our Holy Jetboy Of Perpetual Grace, but you can see how he was inspired by Johnny’s adventuresome, anything goes, boundary bending spirit and dynamic, intuitive, first or second take, hell for leather attitude. By my way of thinkin’, Dave Kusworth and Kevin Junior, are two more distinctive artists with an unmistakable Johnny Thunders influence, who took it in a totally different and unexpected direction, and cultivated their own, equally as valid, and unique personal voices, and that’s what I’m interested in, it’s cool to play covers when you’re young and learning how to play, but at some point, we’re supposed to say our own thing. I don’t usually go for too many of the greasy kid bands, because it’s just always the same old going through the motions, without the soul. Just feels like somebody’s bankrollin’ their wardrobe. I wanna hear somebody who makes me care, who makes me believe, ‘has some real skin in the game, who makes me feel something, besides sheer boredom or mild resentment.

I never understood falling in love with just one Doll. I loved each and everyone of ’em. Syl says he’s the biggest Dolls fan and who am I to argue? I met Jerry Nolan once and he was just the picture of patient, dapper, paternal generosity and sincere appreciation for his clingy young fans. All the Oddballs and Waldos seemed like wonderful people. How can anyone not love Sylvain Sylvain or Arthur Killer Kane? I was never into “Hot, Hot, Hot”, but I can hear “Frenchette”, “Donna”, and “Funky But Chic” all day, and I’ll get down in any neighborhood I swear that my friends’ll take me. I remember seein’ both the Waldos and Heartbreakers shows around the same time when Big Tony C and Uncle Walter played in both bands and some nights, the Waldos were the best band in town. “Maimed Happiness” was a really deep song from the Sami Yaffa/Steve Conte era rebooted Dolls Gang, but there was only one Johnny Thunders.

Everybody loved Johnny Silvers, ’cause we all got a part of him deep inside, sang Tyla and the Dogs D’Amour. I only brushed with the guy briefly in real life, but yeah, he’s been a constant presence in my sad journeys since I was oh, probably, a fourteen or fifteen year old kid. I was surprised when I moved to the big city to see all the proudly obsessive Thunders collectors with their overflowing and colorful shrines, who had purchased all the artifacts and bootlegs and yellow guitars and shit, cause meanwhile back in the states, Thunders was no status symbol, most people had honestly never heard of them, but you were probably still gonna get approached, physically, by less conscious aggressors, for even wearing a Dolls t shirt, or for wearing some hairspray or red patent leather, but yeah, it was always interesting to visit all these different churches of Thunders. The consumerist aspect of the gotta own it all Thunders devotees still startles me. Probably as many varying denominations by now, as in any big organized religion. I even knew a cab driver once who hung around with a hillbilly El Duce and GG Allin fan, who both seemed to mostly revel in his pre P.C. profanity and onstage hecklings. When I think of JT’s multi-faceted legacy, his “bad words” aren’t what comes to my mind, but there really are those who have even celebrated him as mostly being an outrageous wiseguy obscenity spewer-a Dice Clay, or Mentors, or Geto Boys, which was not how I predominantly choose to remember him. The bullshit drug laws that mainly serve the interests of the CIA and prison shareholders, still have a loudly broadcast, ugly stereotyping, demonizing presence, in corporate media, and I blame them for vilifying people who have addictions. Peter Perrett refers to it as a con. The prison profiteering bipartisan drug war zealots. If Thunders or Coltrane took drugs, or struggled with addictions that adversely impacted their private lives, I don’t see how that makes them criminals. Once you get branded as an outlaw by society, even if you were a sensitive loverboy who spent his last years soulfully singing about feeding the homeless, and advocating for children’s rights, some people are only ever gonna remember you as that cocksure Jesse James gunslinger and the media will not even bother retracting lies about your cause of death, cops won’t even investigate all the shady circumstances, they just dismiss you as a bad boy punk rocker.

I love this book and film because they feature the memories of those who knew and loved the wounded and funny and sometimes sick or troubled human being(!) behind the red rodeo chaps and big hair. It ain’t all P.C., p.r. photo shopping, or image makeover white washings, which I appreciate. For me, it kind of only affirms that which I felt about him, already-like all of us. How he self medicated to cope with his inner conflict relating to both his family of origin, and also, while struggling to provide for his own, and to be a positive parental presence in his kids’ lives. It’s a lotta pressure to face rooms full of people every night and to have to gig to make any money. He might have even felt like his kids were being held for ransom, if he did not earn enough to ever satisfy the various in laws. He was a product of another time, he made mistakes. Maybe he was a fuck up, but he sure seemed to have a whole lot of help when it came to fuckin’ up, which is what Westerberg was probably trying to point out in his eighties Replacements song, “Johnny’s Gonna Die”. In the book, Gail Higgins talks about how much it really hurt him to not see his kids. Nina Antonia remembers how he always took a picture of his sons with him everywhere he went. Robbing someone of their children, particularly, if it is not a genuine safety issue is an incredibly damaging and destructive move. All these years later, Johnny is still everywhere. There’s a little bit o’ Thunder in Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde, surely in Andy McCoy, Izzy Stradlin, and Brian “Damage” Forsythe. Tyla, Nikki Sudden and Mike Scott all borrowed a trick or two from the gypsy troubadour. Power pop stars, the Beat Angels, looked like a whole flock of Johnny Thunders‘. So did the Alarm. Bluesy country honk cowboys, Rock City Angels, had a risky sense of spontaneity and raw, unvarnished feelings. In the sleaze punk underground, you can feel Johnny in the guitar playing of the Hangmen/Junkyard‘s Jimmy James and the Humpers Billy Burkes. Band like Black Veil Brides have mainstreamed his original image a mere fifty years later, made it a common Hot Topic/Target look you see in every food court in every mall. Steve Conte from Michael Monroe and the latter day Dolls reformation has played some really haunting, emotion charged licks, like on “Temptation To Exist”. As Iggy Pop sang, “they called him Thunders ’cause he had the spark.” To celebrate the publication of “LOOKING FOR JOHNNY” on Punk Hostage Press, the essential companion to Nina Antonia’s books and Danny Garcia’s heartfelt film, I hassled some of my fellow banditos and rocknroll amigos, favorite creators and former collaborators, to talk about what Johnny Thunders means to them. If anyone wants to let Santa know I am hoping for a copy of Sylvain’s “Ain’t No Bones In Ice Cream” for Christmas, I’d appreciate it. If you wanna make some stray rocknroller happy, wrap this book, “Looking For Johnny” up in some pretty paper, and place it under the tree. “Looking For Johnny”. By Danny Garcia, on Punk Hostage Press. Garcia is a very astute and caring historian and I can not wait to see his movie about Stiv Bators. What was it about Johnny Thunders that was so profoundly pure and resilient, eternal and unalterable, that makes his legacy clang so loudly through the decades? What about him most impacted you?

The World Famous Mister Ratboy of Motorcycle Boy, Pillbox NYC, Sour Jazz, Ace Killers Union, and the Golden Rat recalls: “In 1978, there were not many rock musicians as authentic as Johnny Thunders. Having perfectly digested the roots of American music, he was spitting them back out with an attitude similar to the popular UK bands of the period, but not as commercial. His acute fashion sense, eternally wasted looks, and reckless bohemian lifestyle, along with the constant rumors of his impending death created an appealing element of danger nowhere to be found in today’s rock scene. His behavior made millionaire ‘rebels’ like Keith Richards look like choirboys and the sheer volume of his truly unique playing injected white blues into punk rock. His guitar dominated every single song he ever played on, and his electric sound was unmistakable. Along with Ron Asheton, he taught me that intensity and emotion matter more than technical ability.”

Brian Morgan from the Saviors, Disruptors, and Carvels NYC says: “Johnny Thunders appealed to me before I even heard him. Photos of the New York Dolls in ’72 or ’73 showed an over exaggerated Keith Richards in white platform boots. I was an 11 year old Alice Cooper fiend so, y’know, cool, tell me more! I had to have the album, and it was everything I wanted. A band who clearly gave zero fucks. And Johnny Thunders embodied this better than anyone else. His guitar actually sneered. No, really, it did, go listen. Everything since has carried at least a trace of that attitude.”

Deanne Clapper from The Sacred: “I first discovered Thunders after buying the NY Dolls double LP put out by Mercury in 1977 with all 5 faces on the sleeve.
The buzzsaw rhythms and tilting pinball machine leads, turning the fader on the stereo to one side to just hear Johnny’s guitar. I’d never heard anything like that before.That was truly what made me want to play guitar.”

Hiroshi The Golden Arm from the Remains, Golden Arms, Ace Killers Union and Golden Rat: “Yes , I’m very influenced from Thunders and Dolls.

Four about how I were most personally affected by Thunders

1. Guitar Riffs & Licks by Gibson Les Paul Jr. (with Deep-Reverb)

2. Attitude – “Fuck’em If they can’t take a Joke”
“Hey, What is this shit? “

3. The Letters D. L. A. M. F. (Down Like A Mother Fucker )and D. T. K. (Down To Kill )

4. R&R Image of “Black & Magenta

Jeff Ward from Gunfire Dance, Electrajets, and NY Junk: “When I read the message asking me to contribute to this article I was on a New York subway with a Les Paul at my side, heading to a rehearsal. Right then and there the question of Johnny Thunders‘ influence on me was answered. My old band Gunfire Dance viewed New York and CBGB’s as our Mecca, so we made our way there in 1993 and went onstage after Walter Lure. Many years later, the Gunfire‘s drummer and bassist, Ozzie and Ray arranged an English tour for Walter, with them and Jez Miller as his backing band. It was at their 100 Club gig that I played some ElectraJets songs and met Cynthia Ross and Joe Sztabnik of New York Junk. Every word I’ve written so far could have been interspersed with the words ‘Johnny’ and ‘Thunders’, such is his interconnecting influence on me andd my friends. Nikki Sudden said something like, ‘Johnny Thunders will be remembered the same way as Robert Johnson‘. I’ve always thought this was a perfect description of him. Now that we’re all ‘old’ white bluesmen and women, Sudden‘s words seem to ring more perfectly than ever. But not just for the old’ens, Thunders influence is seemingly timeless, his songs and clothes, and guitar playing cross-pollinate with a new crop of musicians endlessly…Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Jim Jones from Thee Hypnotics, Black Moses, the Jim Jones Revue, and Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind testifies:

As a youngster, I first awoke to Rock n Roll via the original 50s stuff; Elvis, Little Richard, Eddie Cochrane, Chuck Berry etc.

This early Rock n Roll has swing, it has charisma, it has urgency, it has spirit and style and class. A lot of music that followed the original explosion has nothing .. it became watered down, it became a business, and in many cases it just became shit.

When I first became aware of Johnny Thunders music, all I knew was I liked it, mostly because it sounded tough and dangerous, and it went against a lot of stuff I thought was stupid ..

I went to see him play on several occasions, and I loved him, I felt a spiritual significance, he had the charisma of the explosion; I couldn’t fully articulate that stuff at the time, I just knew: He wasn’t rock .. he was Rock n Roll – there’s a big difference .. and you either get it, or (sadly) you don’t. ”

I heard about Johnny Thunders before I actually heard him. He died the year after I started playing guitar. When I started playing, I devoured all I could about guitar through reading the monthlies. At the time, from cover to cover, this magazine content was like 1980s metal and roots music. I was hungering for something different. On a whim, I bought the Replacements’ Don’t Tell A Soul. Whatever I could learn about the Mats’, I did, and they spoke of Thunders so I eventually checked him out.

I bought a Dolls Best Of first and then So Alone. With the Dolls, what struck me as how he took familiar rock n’ roll lead guitar vocabulary and made little genius twists that made his runs instantly memorable and instantly timeless. Also, there was a raw-nerve emotionality to his phrasing and a cocksure attitude to his solos. He seemed like one of those guys whose full and pure being came out when he picked up a guitar. It didn’t seem like anything was put on—it was all attitude and fearlessness. So Alone showed a vulnerable side that touched me. It was a deep level of artistry beyond so many musicians—he was the guitar hero and the wounded romantic balladeer. Another thing that resonated with me is that Johnny’s warped sense of humor came through in both these polarities—it didn’t matter whether he was making you cry or making you dance, he could always make you laugh. ”

Lorne Behrman, guitarist (The Sweet Things, L.E.S. Stitches, Dimestore Haloes, The Dead Tricks)

Jonny Kaplan from the Gutter Cats and Jonny Kaplan And The Lazy Stars: “Johnny, man…where to begin…My first vision of that perfect rocknroll hair was the cover of the Dolls 2nd album, ‘Too Much, too Soon’. Johnny with his Yellow TV Special and what appears to be him holding a doll in his right hand. I must’ve started with side A, because my memory of my first listen to ‘Puss N Boots’ was that the record must be skipping! Next up, ‘Chatterbox’. Razor sharp guitars and a razor sharp, nasally squeal was my introduction to this ultimate amalgamation of the Sex Pistols and Keith Richards, by way of Chuck Berry. Fast forward to 1988 or so, and this kid is living in New York city in the bathroom of a club called Nirvana at Number 1, Times Square. I was there to see Sylvain Sylvain play, and while having a pee, in walks J.T. himself to use the urinal next to me. He shot out, ‘What’s up, kid?’ I was starstruck. He made my night. I saw him play many times over the years, and even played a show with him, in Hollywood, once. Sometimes great, sometimes, terrible, he was always THE Johnny Thunders. about a year before his death, we had a few drinks together in New York City’s Scrap Bar. I was stoked that he remembered me. He is a legend, albeit, a sad one.”

Darren Birch from the Godfathers, Black Bombers, and Gunfire Dance:
Thunders….!! The hair….!! The clothes..!! The nose…!!
Like Chuck & Bo before he created his own voice within those 3 chords……
When struggling for sartorial inspiration you could always don that black suit…mess up the hair….And you were transported to the cover of ‘So Alone’…..But..You could never REALLY be Johnny….??? R.I.P. X (A great big one)…!!”


Mental Beat #1 Fanzine (Spring 2014)

f61791aec7d711e3915c0002c99ab36e_8Issue 0 was cool, Issue 1 is even cooler! Printed in black and blue on white paper, Mental Beat offers us an interesting mix of old and new rock’n’roll in both English and Italian: Interview with The FLESHTONES, Zig Zag Magazine ( the first rock magazine in the UK), and Mike Hudson (about Johnny Thunders’ death), articles about The NEW YORK DOLLS by Morrissey (from Scottish fanzine The Next Big Thing), ANTI-PASTI and Krishnacore band SHELTER (wish I could read Italian foir this one!), a few record reviews and old RAMONES posters, plus a Johnny Thunders crossword puzzle that taken from Sonic Iguana magazine. A quick read when you can’t read the parts in Italian, but an excellent, and great looking fanzine!/Laurent C.


Looking For Johnny – The Legend Of Johnny Thunders. Interview with Danny Garcia

“In 90 minutes, this film covers Johnny Thunders career from his beginning in the early 70’s as a founding member of the highly influential New York Dolls to his demise in New Orleans, where he died under mysterious circumstances in 1991.”

We interviewed director Danny Garcia about his upcoming documentary Looking For Johnny. Most Johnny Thunders fans have been waiting for a long time to see such a movie, so without spoiling the fun, Danny tells us a bit more about it…


Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your previous work?

I’m an independent filmmaker from Barcelona, I directed and produced The Rise and Fall of The Clash.

How and when did you get the idea of making a documentary about Johnny Thunders?

I’ve always been a Thunders fan so it was a natural choice for me.
I came up with the idea in 2010, got in touch with a few people related to JT and their response was positive so I carried on.

Can you remember when you heard about Johnny Thunders for the very first time?

LFJ4When I was in my late teens I bought a New York Dolls album without knowing what was in store for me. I immediately loved their music and Johnny‘s guitar sound.

You interviewed many people for the movie, how did you choose them? Was it easy to find them? Did everyone you get in touch with agreed to be part of the movie? Anybody you would have liked to interview but didn’t manage to?

In 88 I nicked Nina Antonia’s book In Cold Blood from a big store in London and I kinda grew up with it… So choosing the people I wanted to interview was easy but it wasn’t so easy to track everybody and have them agree to be interviewed, but I’m really happy with the cast and the overall result.
It would have been nice to have Johansen and Hell in the film as well but you can’t win ’em all.

Your project was mainly financed by donations. Have you been positively surprised or disappointed with the feedback?

I was really surprised and grateful to all the fans, friends and family of Johnny Thunders , he is the real recipient of the donations I’m just the messenger.

 Hardcore Johnny Thunders fans are definitely waiting for the movie, some people even sent us emails to ask us about Looking For Johnny!… Are you aware of this impatience from Thunders fans? Do you feel a kind of pressure/stress because of that?

Yes but we have all been waiting forever for a film like this so a few more days of waiting won’t kill us.

Is there any never-seen-before footage in the movie?

Yes, there is unseen NY Dolls and Heartbreakers footage and also photography.

 What’s your favourite Johnny Thunders era? How do you explain his”rock icon” status (especially since these last 10 years)?

The Heartbreakers period. To me “L.A.M.F”. Is one of the best albums ever, period. Johnny was a great songwriter and a very charismatic artist so all the interest in his music doesn’t surprise me one bit.

LFJ5The Heartbreakers – Le Bataclan, Paris 1977.

What’s your opinion on “Born To Lose: The Last Rock”‘n’ Roll Movie”? What about “Mona Et Moi”?

Kowalski’s film is very crude, not my style but I respect his work.
Patrick’s film is very interesting, nice photography, definitely worth a watch. I’m glad she had all those cameos in it.

I’ve heard that somebody is working on a biopic about Johnny Thunders. Have you heard about that?

Yes, I spoke to one of the scriptwriters, they bought the rights for Nina’s book.
I hope they find a good actor to play JT‘s part, best of luck to them.

LFJ2Danny in front of the infamous St. Peter House, New Orleans.

 Is Johnny Thunders’ spirit/legacy still alive in the 2014 rock scene?

Of course, it’s stronger than ever!

 Is there any release date for Looking For Johnny yet?

May 2014.

Looking For Johnny on Facebook

The Batusis “S/T” EP

“New York City’s Such A Whore!” (-Electric Frankenstein)ATTN CITIZENS: Speaking as someone who got chased out of public schools for dressing alot like Karen O, at her splashiest, way back in the mid-eighties, I can tell ya, not just anyone can rock the Raggedy Andy look, and “Make It Work”, like Sylvain Sylvain. He’s the only guy I ever saw wearing the “one armed bandit” style, half-sleeveless, leather jacket, and with the personality to carry it off! Not to mention the umbrella hat, or all those kooky jump-suits with lemon piping and eight-inch platform heels he wore before Kiss. When me, and Gunfire Dance, and the Throbs, and Mister Ratboy all started wearing those velvet newsboy caps, in the flash metal era, who but SYLVAIN had already integrated the Little Rascals look into rock’n’roll? Even THE OSMONDS used to copy Sylvain’s crazy looks.
In addition, to cutting quite a dash throughout the decades, and introducing so many styles, and sounds, inventing the fads, and setting the trends, SYLVAIN SYLVAIN has been at the heart of every significant “movement” of the real rock’n’roll era. Heck, the notorious Sex Pistols manager even swindled their best guitar offa, who else, but Sylvain. The NY Dolls have meant so much, to so many. From Morrissey, and the punks, to the drag queens, to the Hair-metallers. Their fans are like a big dysfunctional family-true bohemians, poseurs, junkies, aristocracy, gutter bums, and socialites. The Dolls and their fans are obviously, the “OUR GANG” of rock’n’roll.
I was only two, or three, when the Dolls were getting together, but as a pre-teen, in the early eighties, they made such a big impression on me. Vividly, I recall being just captivated by Alice Cooper in his Wonder Woman t-shirt and silver sequined trousers in the “I’m Eighteen” video, Iggy’s platinum panther “Raw Power” look, Bowie, and all those Dolls album sleeves. Yeah, they only had two studio l.p.’s, but by the time, my rock dreams started blossoming, there were loads of repackaged, reissues, and bootlegs, etc. It was a good decade before I got a hold of Nina’s first Thunders book, so it was mostly old ROCK SCENES and CREEMS, we’d find at garage sales and flea markets. Even the record stores just had stacks of ’em, in boxes, for like a quarter each-there was no internet, and the record store owners weren’t as obnoxiously greedy, back then. I didn’t have no videos of ’em, for years, until someone finally started circulating that dodgy “Live In A Dolls House” VHS tape, so I just stared and stared at the album covers, and waited for my chance to split for Manhattan. I remember when I was young, people wanted to kill me for being a Dolls fan, and that tended to really bond me to my fellow travelers, the other true believers, misfits, jetboys, and rock’n’rollers, who were few and far between, out here in rural, fly-over country….so when I moved to the city, and I initially encountered some less-than-kind people who were flyin’ the Dolls colors, I was really actually shocked for a long while. All the Dolls people I’d ever known, previously, were soul brothers, you understand. It STILL gets in my crawl, sometimes, to see one of those vapid, mainstream, television bimbos, wearing a Dolls t-shirt. Sylvain was one of the few people I confided in, when one of my most beloved family members died, and I was absolutely shattered by it. He innately understood. He’s probably the friendliest rockstar who ever lived. Totally a fan, at heart. Humble, generous, genuine, with a hit wit. Everything you’d want him to be.
After delivering two near-perfect comeback platters with a reconstituted NY DOLLS, Steve Conte and Sam Yaffa have joined the Dolls influenced Michael Monroe, to continue their against the wind campaign to bring back true rock’n’roll without permission, David Johansen’s been doing some bluesy solo gigs, and Saint Sylvain’s joined forced with the kamikaze guitar punk, Cheetah Chrome, and various members of “Electric”-era The Cult and the Blackhearts, wowing life-long fans, currently touring all over the nation as THE BATUSIS.
Cheetah Chrome is the embodiment of wildass rock’n’roll, like Lemmy, or Keef. There’s only one Cheetah Chrome, y’know? It’s hard for me to even discuss what Cheetah and Stiv meant to this Catholic School expulsion, it’s like trying to soundbite the book that first captured your imagination and made you leave home, to seek out a freer existence, unhindered by witch-hunting, tv-watching, hate-radio programmed, flag waving, Wal-Mart shopping, video-game playing, McDonald’s worshipping, suburban nazis and smalltown hard-on authoritarians. It’s like talking about your kids or grandparents-no frivolous matter, something we only talk about as dawn approaches with our tightest amigos.
The Hat Brothers 45 of “Still Wanna Die”. “Here Comes Trouble”. That Ghetto Dogs e.p. on swirly colored vinyl directly resulted in at least one of my own junkyard drunk bands.
“USED TO BE FUN” just SLAYS me: “Kids don’t hang out on the corners no more-they’ve all gone inside…” It’s like Stiv’s “King Of The Brats”, Tom Wait’s “Hold On”, Lazy Cowgirls “Somewhere Down The Line”, Steve Earle’s “Livin’ In The Motherfuckin’ U.S.A.”, or Dee Dee Ramone’s “Poison Heart”. One of those songs that just said EVERYTHING to me.
Cos it used to be FUN. The BATUSIS e.p. sounds exactly like you think it should. If you are too stuck on Johnny Thunders to buy the New New York Dolls records, there’s a good chance you ain’t heard nothin’ this primo since the Waldos “Rent Party”, or the Humpers “Positively Sick On Fourth Street”. Remember how ON FIRE Electric Frankenstein were, in the early days, with Steve Miller? “It’s All Moving Faster”, or the Bobby No More-inspired, “Demolition Joyride”? The Batusis got that same crunchy, ferocious, effortlessly badass, streetpunk down to a science, this is Cheetan and Syl, it just emanates from their core, they have to try really hard to NOT ROCK, so, instantly, you think of how so few groups can do this type of music, authoritatively, anymore…There’s Silver from Norway…that first Stereo Junks e.p. from Finland was pretty good….but mostly, all ya ever hear is that trendy, third-rate, Strokes/Bomb Turks/Hives/Stripes wanna-be, middle-class, poseur, gutless shit that rarely comes within 100 miles of the Batusis’ soul and truth.
It’s funny that they open with “Blue’s Theme” from the “Wild Angels” soundtrack, cos the dangerous biker Vietnam Vet that adopted me and my childhood guitarist, as kids, and who is responsible for all of my unforgivable, G.G. Allin style tattoos, just loves dat tune.
Second song reminds you of Keith Richards, with the slasher riffs, and Johnny Johnson/Ian McLagan/Greg Kuehn style piano pounding, courtesy of Monsieur Mizrahi.
“What You Lack In Brains” reminds me of this baffled blonde I used to know, who had me, the singer of Buck Cherry, J.C. from N’Synch, and a violent Weiland clone with no money and a bad temper, all on her speed dial, and just couldn’t decide…Funny, cool, reminds me of Syl’s solo albums.
“Bury You Alive” is Cheetah protest punk, shades of Stiv. Three chords and a grudge, two fingers in the air, a pox upon the oil barons, torture mongers, secret police, media-monopolizing, murderous, fortunate son, global elite, false flag, prison building, propaganda pimping, Constitution shredding, taser-wielding, thug-financing, austerity bringing, police state shysters who contentedly enslave kids in Wal-Mart swet-shops, contaminate the food supply with G.M.O.’s, pollute the skies with geo-engineering experiments, destroy the Gulf, bust unions, stir-up phony racial divisions, and occupy poor people all over the planet for Fun and Profit. It’s about how nationalism is just power-hunger, tempered by self-deception. ‘Makes you wanna watch “Democracy Now”. Bator would be very proud.
“Big Cat Stomp” is one of those sleazy instrumentals only oldschool motherfuckers like these BATUSIS can successfully bring to life. Right The Fuck On. Come On, Commissioner Gordon! To the Bat Signal!(-Anguish Young)


Nina Antonia

After enjoying the privilege of being able to do this interview with Nina Antonia, I finally came to the decision of asking her a few questions about her latest news, but I think that nobody would have forgiven me if I had not asked anything about her past as well…

Nina, you were born in Liverpool so it would have been quite logical for you to be a BEATLES fans (or a football supporter), how did you get attracted to Glam Rock?

I got attracted to Glam as a reaction to Liverpool. I must explain that Glam to me meant Marc Bolan and the New York Dolls, I wasn’t really interested in anything else at the time altho Bretty Smiley’s tv appearance on the Russell Harty was also influential. Now I’m older I realise that the Beatles really were significant, however growing up in Liverpool in the 1960’s liking them was practically mandatory, I mean they were WORSHIPPED. I’ve always turned away from anything that one is told you are supposed to be into. As for the football thing, it was just to muddy and sweaty to interest me.

Can you tell us about the first time you met Johnny Thunders? How and when?

The first time I met Johnny was in a pub in London, in Soho, I guess it was 1982 or 83. It’s quite staggering that it’s now over 20 years ago. An informal meeting to talk about my writing his biography had been arranged. When he walked in the bar he had this insolence about him but he wasn’t arrogant. I remember his clothes were frayed and a little grubby but he was so cool like something out of a Martin Scorcese movie. Suprisingly, he was pretty shy and so was I so we got along fine.

This era seems to have had a big impact on you and your life, are you nostalgic a lot when you think about those times?

I’m nostalgic for the times spent with Johnny and Jerry Nolan and for meeting wonderful people like Stiv Bators. I’m nostalgic for the fact that I’ll never hear Johnny play guitar on stage again. Watching footage on DVD doesn’t come anywhere near the experience. I’m nostalgic too that the 80’s reperesented the fading days of a less money orienatated culture. MTV, capatilism and conservatism have conspired to create a homogenised rock and youth culture. This week a scene from a play has been cut in England because some of the people were supposed to smoke cigaretttes. If you light a cigarette up in the street here people look at you as if you’ve just got a crack pipe out. Johnny Thunders would have told them to all go fuck themselves and I second that emotion.

Johnny appeared in “What About Me” and “Mona et Moi”, do you think he could have had a career as an actor?

Johnny had a lot of presence and would have been fabulous in The Sopranos or being directed by Martin Scorsese.

Like Bob Gruen, I suppose that people always ask you about the DOLLS and Johnny, isn’t it annoying sometimes?

It depends on the questions people ask!!!

In the New York Doll documentary, Arthur Kane seemed so happy to be able to play with the DOLLS again, what did you feel when you first heard about the band reunion?

I had mixed emotions about the Dolls reunion. I was happy for Arthur and Sylvain because they’d both suffered in the wilderness but I was incredibly sad that Johnny and Jerry weren’t going to be there.

It must have been a real shock for you when Arthur died. Can you tell us a bit about him? Were David Johansen and Syl Sylvain right to keep on playing without him?

It was so sad when Arthur died because he was such a sweet guy. I remember being at home crying when one of the documentary makers phoned up and very gently reminded me that at least Arthur had his dream come true and was now in God’s care. If anyone was meant for heaven it’s Arthur Kane. HOWEVER I really don’t like the travesty that is currently masquerading as the New York Dolls and I hate it when people tell me they’ve just seen The Two York Dolls play and wasn’t it great. How could it possibly be the New York Dolls without Thunders, Nolan and Kane? That album they put out was awful. If the band were gigging as David’s Dolls or used a variation on the original name I really wouldn’t mind at all and wish them all the very best.

You’re the manager of a band now (The SKUZZIES), is it the first time that you’re managing a band?

Yes indeed it is the first time I’ve managed a band and it just kind of happened. Of course I have a personal interest in it because their front man, Crooked J, is my partner. When I first started going out with him he’d kind of given up on having his own band because life had been pretty tough for him but I encouraged him and ended managing The Skuzzies by default but as business isn’t really my forte I hope at some point an established manager can take over.

Do you think that your notoriety can help them in a way or another?

I really don’t know…………it helps in someways, on an underground level but the upper echelons of the rock music industry tend to be controlled by a cliquey white middle class mileau. It’s hard to break out of the trenches but we’re prepared to die trying. You have to leave your mark.

It seems like there’s more and more glam/punk bands in the UK these days, what’s your opinon on that?

There’s an epidemic of all kind of bands in the UK at the moment but it’s a case of quantity rather than quality. The only other new band I’ve seen that has registered with me is an outfit called Like A Bitch. They are playing with The Skuzzies next week.

Any advice to someone who whould like to get into the rock’n’roll world in order to write a best-seller?

If you want to write a rock n’ roll best seller, it helps to be male because of entrenched attitudes and if you want to make a profit go for an obvious subject. However, if you want to write something that you put your heart and soul into and that goes against the mainstream despite having a dedicated readership you probably won’t make a penny or a franc or a cent !!!

You wrote about Johnny Thunders, The NEW YORK DOLLS, Peter Perrett and Brett Smiley, what band or artist could make you write about them now?

I’d write about The Skuzzies, not just because I manage them but because they’ve got a great story – struggle, survival and street life.

One of my friends has this crazy dream to know what Billy Rath has become… Any indication?

I really don’t know if Billy Rath is dead or alive. Sometime ago I heard he was no longer on earth but then I also heard he’d become a preacher of some sort and was residing in New Jersey. Wherever he is, I hope he’s doing okay.

Did you know this band from NY, The Harlots Of The 42nd Street? Some people say they should have become as famous as The DOLLS…

As I never got to hear The Harlot’s music I couldn’t possibly answer as to whether they should have become as famous as The Dolls. All I ever saw about them was a picture in the NME. They didn’t look they had The Dolls savvy but I liked their name !!! (smile)

Your books can only be found in English, any chance to see them released in other languages?

I hear from people all the time who’d like the books to come out in different countries but I’m powerless unless the impetus comes from either one of the publishers here or a company abroad. I’d love an agent to take care of things for me, but the same privileged middle class lock down that exists in the music industry is even more apparent in the world of agents and publishers. Right now my books just rattle along like the night train picking up readers of their own accord. I’d love them to be available in translation so start petitioning publishers wherever you are!!!

Thanks Nina.

Sam Yaffa

Is there anyone out here who wouldn’t enjoy collecting some thoughts of one of the most talented and enigmatic bass player on earth? We humbly did it, but also with a bit of pride. Ladies & Gentlemen, Mr. Sam Yaffa…

When did you start playing music? Could you have ever imagined in your craziest dreams that you’d have such a long and brilliant career?

I started around 14 when I got my first bass.Played till my fingers bled and joined a bunch bands…thats kinda what I’ve done ever since.I’m lucky to have been able to make a living out of something I truly love.Also grateful for all the incredible musicians that I’ve had a chance to work with and consider as friends.

You played some gigs with Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan between 1985 and 1986, what memories do you have of these times? You probably thought about those days when you got asked to join NEW YORK DOLLS?

Yea, playing w Johnny&Jerry was a good,messed up fun, got to do most of LAMF and a bunch Dolls w them, great memories.

You also recorded two wongs with SMACK, right? How was this experience? Were you close to the guys? Do you think this band should have become bigger?

We were drinking buddies in LA, some of the guys I’d known since teens,it was fun fucked up time in Hollywood, didn’t take it too serious.Smack was great.

What about the JETBOY days? How did you decide to join the band?

Nothing better to do, stuck in a snowstorm in Stockholm, my girlfriend had left and I was broke.Got a phone call from California, rest is history..

You created MAD JUANA in Spain, how did you get the idea of starting this band that sounds quite different from your other/previous bands?

I was sick and tired of doin the same old ,same old + after Demolition 23 breaking up I was demoralized, needed a change.Spain and jumping into something totally different cured my ills and opened my head and heart to other kinds of music, healed me.

From the outside, MAD JUANA looks like a big family. How would you define the way the band is working together and the spirit of the band?

Thats what it is, its a family thing where everyone does it for the love of the music, I really wish I had more time to dedicate to it, its frustrating sometimes.

You and your wife share a passion for music, which of you both decides what to listen to on the stereo at home once you’re back from tour?

We are not together as a couple anymore but continue to make music together and remain friends,so,I don’t have that problem no mo.

I read that you played with hardcore band MURPHY’S LAW for year? It must have been a different experience too.

Half a year, a violent,fast and beautiful experience, I loved playing w them.Punk,Ska,Reggae,R’n’R Ah!

There’s not much information about your days in the BLACKHEARTS and in VASQUEZ with Richard Bacchus? Can you tell us a bit about these experiences?

I played w Joan Jett for almost 2 years and loved the experience, she is incredible.We toured,toured,toured and then we toured again.Thommy Price the drummer was an old friend who hooked me up w Joan,she IS the hardest working lady in show biz, all respect. Vasquez w Ricky was a neighborhood thing.Rick and I lived on the same street, would go to the bar, book a gig, have a drink(s) play some R’n’R and then have some more drinks.I love Mr Ricky Bacchus.

You’ve been living in the USA for long now. Do you miss Europe sometimes? If so, for which reasons mainly?

I miss Europe a lot, thankfully I get to tour there a lot.I’ve had my heart in NYC for 2 decades now, I love the place.Would love to get a place in Europe as well next year.

You seem like a nice and pleasing person, did you ever think about playing annoying arrogant rockstar?

Heh,seen enough of those idiots, not pretty…

Here’s a question that probably won’t be an easy one. Imagine you can form a band with any members you have played with over the years. What would be the ideal line-up?

A big Band Of Massive proportions,5 guitarists,4 drummers, 1 Bass Player, 4 vocalists, add some horns, accordions and violins.

Sylvain,McCoy,Thunders,Suicide,Ginger,Nolan,Ferrer,Razzle,Scabies,Me,Monroe,Johansen,Bators,Karmen,Danny Ray,Frank London,Nico Camargo,Marni Rice,Zach Broch,Jone Takamaki….

Thats a band….

Some people (including us at Veglam!) think that 1980-1985 HANOI ROCKS was one of the best bands ever on earth. Don’t you somtimes think that you should have deserved more recognition? Why didn’t you?

Too Much Too Soon, ahead of time by 6 years….

What are the main differences between 70s NEW YORK DOLLS and today’s ones musicwise?

Its not as ruff anymore, Thunders and Nolan had a VERY individual style of playing that can not be duplicated.Band sound is ALWAYS about chemistry between the players

Can you tell us in a few words what these bands mean to you?:

Pelle Miljoona:

Oy My first love

Fallen Angels:

A lovely one night stand

Jerusalem Slim:

ugh, wish that broad had never entered my life

Alison Gordy’s band:

My big city woman

Demolition 23:

will kick you in the face,my 3rd love

According to you, what are the main qualities of a good bass player?


You’re now in the new Michael Monroe band, how was the reunion? Your first practice session together?

I love Michael,Have always loved him and will continue to love him.It sounds like home

You’ve got people like Antonin Artaud and Noam Chomsky on your MySpace top friends. What kind of books do you usually like to read? Are you reading any these days?

Yea, been on a big Bukowski kick, read all the time, all kinds of books.

What does an elegant hat wearing person like you think about Syl Sylvain’s homemade hats? Does he sometimes make some for you?

He owes one that rat bastard!



Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth (2010-04-30)

“I’m going, she said. I love you but you’re crazy, you’re doomed.” (Charles Bukowski)
Steve Conte (NEW YORK DOLLS)found some time somewhere in between one show with the DOLLS and another with MICHAEL MONROE to have a little chat with us. Steve tells us more about his solo project The Crazy Truth…

Can you tell us a bit about your new album and its recording? We can read on your MySpace page that it was recording live. Do you think that modern production and too much Protools can sometimes be harmful to the spirit and soul of music?

My goal with recording “Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth” was to keep it raw and inspired, no overthinking or laboring over anything with very few overdubs. After playing and recording with the Dolls for so many years it’s become apparent to me how much fun you can have if you don’t set such lofty goals. I wanted some of that for myself. Now New York Dolls fans can hear what I do on my own(some ask about me & Sylvain, like who does what on the Dolls albums…) I think you’ll hear from my record where certain things come from.
Yes, ProTools can be dangerous to rock & roll…you could sound like Nickelback!! I use protools like it’s a tape machine in some respects. We’d record a bunch of takes and then I’d pick the best one and we’d work on that one, maybe replacing a few bars here & there from other takes. But it was not “snapped to the grid” in perfect time. We didn’t use a click track so the grid would have been useless anyway. That’s why this record sounds like stuff that used to come out in the 70s… it uses some modern technology but only as a convenience & time saver, not as the way the attain “perfection”.

New York City seems to have had a big influence on this album, right?

Absolutely! If you follow the lyrics from song to song it’s like one big story about a life of excess in NYC. This is a place where you can get anything you want at anytime of day or night. If you have a tendency to use-and-abuse certain things and can come out the other side with your body and mind intact you’re one of the lucky ones.
I wasn’t trying to make the album sound like any other NYC bands per se but I started seeing reviews where they were talking about it in the same breath as Mink DeVille, Lou Reed, The Heartbreakers, etc. I said “Totally coincidental but allright – I’ll take it!”

How is Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth different from The Contes? Can you introduce the line-up?

It’s very different. The Contes (and our previous band, Crown Jewels) was really just my brother John on bass/vocals and me on vocals/guitars with a variety of different drummers and on the records occasional sweeteners like keyboards, cello, violin, percussion, samplers, etc.
Those records were great but a bitch to reproduce live because we never had the same players and we’d need a 6 piece band. Luckily, since high school John and I have always had power trios (The Who “Live At Leeds” was our bible), so on our gigs we could easily strip it down if we had to. But The Crazy Truth is a band that I started out this way with the end result in mind. If the songs are arranged & musically interesting for a power trio playing live then that’s how you record the album.
On bass we have Lee “Leeko” Kostrinsky who I’ve known since high school. He’s the resident anarchist. His style is different from my brother’s because he grew up listening to punk rock & reggae whereas we were listening to The Stones, 60s pop and soul music. Drummer Phil Stewart is from Scarborough, Ontario and is a killer musician. He recently played a gig with one of my favorite jazz guitarists, the legendary Pat Martino so I guess it’s not just my imagination – he’s good!

Will you record new songs with your brother in the future?

I’m sure we will but right now we’re enjoying some time apart doing individual projects. John has just finished a rock & roll kid’s record that is killing ! (it’s called Leo’s Mom – google it!) We have many more songs we’ve written and worked on together that need to be recorded and released so it will happen in time…

The album seems to have received good reviews from the press and from fellow musicians, would you say that it’s your master piece to this day?

Masterpiece?? No. but I’m pretty proud of it because it was a vision that I saw through. I had to limit myself to a certain few elements so that maybe for the first time ever I could make a truly cohesive record of songs and sounds. I normally like to combine genres and jump around stylistically because I get bored but this band and record – like I said before – was thought through all the way. I knew the end result I wanted to get which was, “what are we gonna sound like when we play live?” and that was the criteria for making the album.
I was also heavily involved in the recording and editing on this record. When you don’t have a lot of money to record you figure out ways of making an album where you can do a lot yourself. And those limitations, if they’re not disastrous can be a unique strength.

Can you tell us a bit about your years in COMPANY OF WOLVES? Do you sometimes feel a bit of nostalgia for those days?

The Wolves were my “coming-of-age” band. I was feeling young and virile…it was my first original band on the road and I went nuts. I had killer guitar chops and a huge mane of hair (I seem to have trimmed back on them both somewhere along the way.) We weren’t reinventing the rock & roll wheel but we had some great songs, which if we’d have had better timing could have been radio smash hits.
The music biz was different then. You actually got radio airplay, record sales happened as did tour support and video budgets. It’s a whole new game now. No more will labels give out that kind of money, nor would I spend that kind of money. So I’m maybe missing a bit of what the climate used to be in the music world compared with today’s downloading culture…but I’d only go back there again if I could use what I know now…

You always seem to be busy with tons of projects. I read that you’re helping for a movie these days… And what was exactly your involvement with the video game “Sonic And The Secret Rings”?

I was the “rock and roll guru” on a film called It’s Kind Of A Funny Story with Zach Galafinakis and Emma Roberts. I basically coached these actors who were supposed to be a band onstage how to be a convincing rock star. It was fun. As for the Sonic game I was just hired to come in and sing “Seven Rings In Hand” in the studio. I also played guitar on a ballad called “Worth A Chance” which has one mix with me signing and one with a different guy singing.

Does the term “guitar hero” mean something to you?

It’s a game – innit?

Yoko Kanno is probably not very famous among rock fans, how did you meet her? Can you tell us about her and the work you’ve done for her?

I met her back in 1998 or so. She had come to NYC to record some bits for her solo album “Song To Fly”. I was recommended to her when she wanted an American rock singer. So I came in and sang “Nowhere And Everywhere” and she loved it. We really hit it off as a working team so she asked if I would do a few more things later for a TV show she was writing music for (Cowboy Bebop).
The first thing I recorded was “Rain” then “Call Me Call Me” – which was sung live with a 30 piece orchestra. Then I did Wolf’s Rain music with her, most notably for me, “Could You Bite The Hand?” On that one she wanted me to sing but also overdub an acoustic on top of this Brazilian groove The Seatbelts had laid down as the track. I thought it sounded amazing and wondered why she wanted me to even play on it.
As I was fooling around in the control room with my guitar playing the song so I could learn the words she said – “Yes! That, right there…let’s record that!” and that is what the record became, just me and my Martin D-18 acoustic. The killer Seatbelts version has never been used. I also sang on the Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and Brain Powerd soundtracks as well as Maya Sakimoto’s solo album (“The Garden Of Everything” was our duet.)

Let’s talk a bit about the NEW YORK DOLLS. What was your reaction when David and Sylvain offered you to be the band’s guitar player?

At first it was just supposed to be one gig but then a lot of calls started coming in for the band to play live so we kept going. It just morphed from a hired gun gig into a band, which is fine by me. I like being a band guy as opposed to somebody always negotiating a salary.

Were you worried about the fans reactions or comparisons with Johnny Thunders?

It was annoying at first but I got over it. Since I didn’t grow up a Thunders fan I couldn’t understand his cult not embracing the new guy. But ya know it’s silly, I am me and he was him, 2 unique individuals as players and people. I wasn’t really hired to “replace” him but to be the new Dolls guitar player.
It happened when Mick Taylor replaced Brian Jones and then when Ronnie Wood replaced Mick. It becomes The Stones Mach II…but it’s still the Stones. Same with the New York Dolls.
The new songs I’ve written and my role as guitarist with them on the past 2 albums wouldn’t have been the same with a player like Thunders – as I couldn’t have done what he did back in the early 70s.

You got the name “Crazy Truth” from a Bukowski poem, what are some of your favourite books and the last one you read?

I love all Bukowski’s books, Love Is A Dog From Hell, Hot Water Music, Play The Piano Like A Percussion Instrument…etc. I recently finished Confessions Of A Yakusa. I’m now reading the biography of Little Richard.

Do you plan on bringing The Crazy Truth to Europe?

It’s my goal and I’m working on it. It will take some effort but I love playing there because the audiences can be so attentive to your music. It’s different than the USA. I think we’re all a bit jaded over there.

Last but not least, where do you get your cool clothes?

Ha. Thrift stores, Daffy’s and sometimes places I can’t afford but you see these beautiful things in other countries when you’re on tour and you just gotta have it!